Accountants Got Talent? Marketing Thoughts on #BGT2014

Got Talent?
Last week I caught up on Britain’s Got Talent 2014.  I can’t tell which is my favourite part of the auditions: the people who are so bad you wonder why no one has told them, or those who are so good you wonder why they don’t realise it.

Naturally, as I watched, I had some marketing thoughts for you accountants, so here we go:

Listen to the expert.

Everyone, without fail, wants to impress Simon Cowell.  Despite the crowd boo’ing and hissing and shouting angrily when he tells someone they’re rubbish, those auditioning really, really want to know what Simon thinks.  They’re happy to get a yes vote from the other three, but we all know David Walliams would say yes to just about anybody (witness his ‘golden buzzer’ moment for a truly atrocious act). And both of the girls hate to be mean, so even if they say no, they do it very graciously.  But with Simon, you know where you’re at.  You’re either excellent or rubbish, and he’s got good clear reason why.  When it comes to online marketing for your accountancy firm, you’re really going to have to listen to the expert. You need someone to tell you that your website is rubbish (if it is). That your brilliant idea to send out 400 letters in the post might need a little reworking.  That your logo, which your brother’s friend designed five years ago, is old and tired, and should be replaced without delay.

I know that it’s incredibly difficult to discover who the expert is.  You get emails and webinar invites and letters and suggestions until you can’t see straight, and eventually want to give up in despair.  But don’t give up – just do the equivalent of watching a few episodes of BGT until you figure out who your favourite expert is, and then listen to what they say.

The best BGT acts are those who, even if they have a rubbish audition or semi final or live final experience, respond to the judge’s comments with “thank you, I appreciate it, and I’ll do it.”  Go you and do likewise.

Get a balance.

Now that I’ve said you need to listen to a Simon, I’ll balance that by saying that if the #BGT judging panel was comprised of Simon alone, no one would watch it.  An example is Ellis Chick, a quite talented boy who did brilliantly in his audition, and not so brilliantly in the semi final.  He needed a little encouragement along with the feedback, and all the judges did well at saying, “It wasn’t your best, but we like you, and here’s where you can improve.”

Make sure that whoever is helping you with your marketing is going to listen to your ideas and encourage you, as well.

Know your audience.

The fashion guy, Brian Chan, may possibly be the next greatest thing to hit the fashion world.  It’s not my cup of tea, but the point is, he was delivering a fashion show – on a talent night.  We love seeing new acts, but a fashion show does not lend itself to two minutes on a stage, being judged in front of the entire nation.  Brian clearly loves what he does and is passionate about it – but he had the wrong audience.  They were there to be wowed and amazed and to gasp with excitement….and recycled paint cans just didn’t do it.

In your accountancy firm, when you’re doing anything related to online marketing, you’ve got to do it with your audience in mind.  Perhaps you have a new management reporting software that is so super cool because it saves you time and generates amazing graphs and links to the accounting system you have.  If you think like an accountant, you’ll put up demo videos and invite people to learn more about it and explain how it works.

But if you think like your audience, if you do anything at all you’ll share a sample report and tell how it helped one of your clients triple their turnover in six months.  (True story, actually.  Ask Shaun Walsh.)

Think about what your audience will see, and present yourself in places where they’re disposed to like you.

Work with passion.

One of my favourite acts was Lettice Rowbotham, who is an incredible violinist.  She showed up to her BGT audition unapologetically hung over, and managed to play a jaw-dropping performance, the kind that makes you suddenly want to take up the violin yourself. Or anything, with that much passion.

The reason she went so far in the #BGT finals this year is because she plays – and lives – with So. Much. Passion.  She plays her heart out, and she does it well.  And we love to watch that.

I know you’re thinking, “But I’m an accountant. That’s boring. Nobody wants to watch me crunch numbers on Britain’s Got Talent.”  That last statement is probably true (see my previous point about knowing your audience), but it is absolutely not true that you are boring and nobody cares.  Remember, “accountants are wizards who make you rich”.  You can be passionate about:

  • Saving your clients money
  • Helping people have the lives they really want
  • Using the numbers to generate results (like tripling turnover or doubling sales or reducing customer retention)
  • Explaining something complex in real-world, real-person language (like inheritance tax or money laundering regulations)
  • The people on your team who help make these things happen
  • The community in which you live and work and help people

Try new things.

Another favourite of mine was Jack Pack, who had been together as a singing group for a grand total of a month when they auditioned at #BGT.

Some auditions were people who had been singing together for years. Twenty, thirty years. And they just weren’t that great.  But these guys worked.  The notes, the music, the harmonies – it was standing-ovation stuff, and they got one from all four judges.

It’s tempting as an accountant to want to get things perfect.  To wait, and think, and consider, and mull over, and run numbers.  But sometimes you just have to give it a shot.  When the connection is right, go for it.  You could…

  • Deliver a webinar or a live seminar with a guest speaker you met recently
  • Get an ebook designed by a cool new designer someone mentioned to you
  • Bring in a photographer or videographer for some class-action images and testimonials

Actually, here’s an opportunity for you.  We know some seriously good videographers who are looking to work with an accountancy firm if you’re up for it.  They’ve given us a discounted offer which we would pass on to you (taking no profit).  Ask me about it (only open to a max of 3 firms, so speak quickly).

People connect to story.

I’ve seen this time and time again – not just on #BGT, but on any competition where real people are involved.  Those who get the biggest public reaction are generally those who are liked and whose story is compelling.

Eva Iglesias almost didn’t show up for her audition, because “her heart was broken that week”.  She didn’t give details, but she didn’t need to.  We’ve all been there.

Bars and Melody rapped and sang based on an experience of bullying. How many parents in that audience had kids who experienced the same?

Lettice Rowbotham, as I’ve mentioned above, showed up hung over to her audition – and nailed it.  It may not be your story, but it’s a winner.

When you’re sharing anything in relation to your accountancy firm, you have to share in story.  A broken down business.  A heartbreak in product development.  A client who moved countries.  A business that almost didn’t get off the ground.   What you want is for your prospective clients to say, “That’s me. I get that. I know how that feels.”

Marketing does connect people emotionally – and these days we have more and more ways to do that.  Video, good writing, drawings, design, photography, talent shows.  NWN Blue Squared held a gig for their music clients.

Help your clients to actually feel that you are the best accountant for them, and they’ll love it.

And they’ll vote for you.